05 April 2013

A Method: Quarry

"What difference is it whether I make the words or take the words.  It makes no difference whatsoever."  Billy Williams, The Great American Novel


Here are the opening paragraphs to Peter Kropotkin's (social-anarchist) well-known "Appeal to the Young":

An Appeal to the Young 
It is to the young that I wish to address myself today. Let the old — I mean of course the old in heart and mind — lay the pamphlet down therefore without tiring their eyes in reading what will tell them nothing. 
I assume that you are about eighteen or twenty years of age; that you have finished your apprenticeship or your studies; that you are just entering oil life. I take it for granted that you have a mind free from the superstition which your teachers have sought to force upon you; that you don’t fear the devil, and that you do not go to hear parsons and ministers rant. More, that you are not one of the fops, sad products of a society in decay, who display their well-cut trousers and their monkey faces in the park, and who even at their early age have only an insatiable longing for pleasure at any price...I assume on the contrary that you have a warm heart, and for this reason I talk to you. 
A first question, I know, occurs to you — you have often asked yourself: “What am I going to be?” In fact when a man is young he understands that after having studied a trade or a science for several years — at the cost of society, mark — he has not done this in order that he should make use of his acquirements as instruments of plunder for his own gain, and he must be depraved indeed and utterly cankered by vice who has not dreamed that one day he would apply his intelligence, his abilities, his knowledge to help on the enfranchisement of those who today grovel in misery and in ignorance. 
You are one of those who has had such a vision, are you not? Very well, let us see what you must do to make your dream a reality. 
I do not know in what rank you were born. Perhaps, favored by fortune, you have turned your attention to the study of science; you are to be a doctor, a barrister, a man of letters, or a scientific man; a wide field opens up before you; you enter upon life with extensive knowledge, with a trained intelligence. Or, on the other hand, you are perhaps only an honest artisan whose knowledge of science is limited by the little that you have learnt at school; but you have had the advantage of learning at first hand what a life of exhausting toil is the lot of the worker of our time.

Here is the poem I made out of it.  (More "quarry" poems at Nemesis Poetry.)

"Take It From Peter"

to the young I address myself today
let the old lay my bright pamphlet down
how will they see anything but splinters

your mind is free from talk of the devil
there is an evil in that very talk
hearing the ranting of single letters

you will not play dress-up or be costumed
for you no pleasure in a private slake
for you cords must vibrate in harmony

there is good will but still the hard questions:
What am I to be?
How will I become?

ages concentrated in microscopes
and you have studied, freed to study all,
even reversing the glass to heaven

there is gold enough for you in blinkered
focus, but are you then to become gold
where golden shines the conduit and path?

But you know better! You are devoted
to brother and sister and to your home;
but paths do not flow, they are traveled by

foot; yet too they are governed by the past
and you are become a concentration
of ages yet revealing a natal

intelligence: open to being trained.
a doctor, a lawyer, a lettered one--
freedom founded upon modern constraints

though you may be an honest artisan:
lacking initiation in new mind
you learned what needed no earning, that toil

is exhausting


I made the title reflect the author by name but also to draw one into analogizing.  Take if from Peter and give to Paul...or put another way, rob Peter to pay Paul.  Interpret as you will.

The title came last and the content was written before I was aware of the idea to make the analogy.  But you can see by "letters" and "splinters" that I must have "known" what I was doing.  Perhaps reading the phrase "man of letters" in the Kropotkin set this rolling.